Spinach and cheese stuffed manicotti

Manicotti (the plural form of the Italian word manicotto, meaning “muff,” or, literally, “little sleeve” or “little shirtsleeve”) is an Italian American kind of pasta. They are very large pasta tubes, usually ridged, that are intended to be stuffed and baked. Traditionally, the filling is ricotta cheese mixed with cooked chopped spinach which may or may not include a ground meat such as veal. They are subsequently topped with a traditional Italian white besciamella that is usually made with Romano cheese, Parmesan cheese, red tomato sauce or some combination thereof.

Similar to the Italian cannelloni, manicotti can be extruded in tube form, or rolled from sheets of dough.

One variant of the manicotti recipe uses a crêpe instead of pasta tubes to contain the filling, which is similarly covered in sauce and baked.

Serves 6 (2 manicotti per person)
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 1hr

Ingredients:
1 x 285g packet frozen spinach, thawed completely & squeezed dry
225g grated mozzarella cheese
425g ricotta cheese
115g cream cheese
50g grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 box (12 to 14 shells) manicotti noodles (o canelones precocidos o crêpes caseros)
820g-1.1kg Marinara Sauce (I either use ready made cartons of “tomate frito casero” or the recipe below for marinara sauce*)
50g grated Romano or Parmesan cheese, for topping
Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 1
Method:
1. Preheat oven to 180ºC.
2. In a large bowl, mix spinach, cheeses, eggs, salt and pepper. Stir together until well blended.
Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 2
3. Place about 420g of marinara or tomato sauce in a 22x33cm ovenproof dish. Spread it around to cover the bottom.
Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 3
4. Place the mixed filling into a plastic bag or piping bag.  Snip the corner, gather the top and squeeze the filling into the corner. Hold an uncooked manicotti shell in your hand and squeeze the filling inside the shell. If using cannelloni, just fill and roll up. Let the filling overflow at each end in both cases. Place the filled shell into the sauce-lined pan. Repeat with remaining manicotti/cannelloni and fill the dish with the stuffed shells, until you run out of shells and filling. You should be able to fill 12 to 14 shells- if you run out of room in your dish, use a separate smaller dish to accommodate the extra.
Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 4Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 5Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 6
Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 7
5. Cover the pasta with marinara/tomato sauce, using about 680g of sauce. Sprinkle 50g Romano/Parmesan on top. At this point, you can cover with foil and refrigerate until you’re ready to bake, or you can cover with foil and place it in the oven immediately.
Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 8Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 9
6. Bake, covered with foil, 50 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes.
Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 10Spinach & Cheese Stuffed Manicotti 11

Tips:
*It’s perfectly okay to use low fat ricotta and low fat cream cheese.
*If you don’t wish to use the spinach, it’s ok to leave it out and just turn this into a cheese-stuffed manicotti.
*If you don’t wish to use a piping bag, you can use a very small spoon or fork to stuff the filling– it will just take a bit longer and might be a little messy.

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients

  • 2 x 410g cans Italian plum tomatoes (tomates triturados o troceados)
  • 170g tomato paste (concentrado de tomate)
  • 4 tbsps chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsps olive oil
  • 50g finely chopped onion
  • 125ml white wine

Method

  1. In a food processor place the tomatoes, tomato purée, chopped parsley, crushed garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  2. In a large pan over a medium heat, saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the blended tomato sauce and white wine.
  3. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.